Yuan Shikai (1859-1916) turned back the clock in the modern history of China. When he received power from Sun Yat-sen, the first president and founding father of the Republic of China, Yuan broke his promise to embrace republicanism out of his ambition of becoming an emperor. Despite widespread opposition, he became an emperor by himself in December 1915 but died of illness 80 days later.
China has toughened Internet censorship in order to control the negative public opinion about the removal of presidential term limits. Chinese people will get blocked if they type words such as “emigrate” or “disagree” on social networking sites. Yuan Shikai has been also added to the list of words subject to crackdown. This was sparked by an online user, who wrote in his posting that “The dream of reviving Yuan Shikai has been realized in China.” The ambition of becoming an emperor and the regression of history appear to have something in common.
The issue of Constitutional revision has come to involve Disney’s cartoon character “Winnie the Pooh.” If you search ‘Winnie the Pooh’ on websites such as Weibo, you will see the sentence, “Search results cannot be shown according to relevant laws and regulations.” This cute cartoon character is being blocked on social media sites as Chinese President Xi Jinping got the nickname of Pooh when he visited the United States in 2013. The image comparing President Xi popping his head out of the roof of his limousine with a Winnie the Pooh popping out of little car was the most censored image of 2015. Before the National People’s Congress of the Communist Party’s in 2017, when President Xi was given 2nd term as Communist Party leader, Pooh could not be searched on the Internet. This was obviously to block any attempt to criticize President Xi using the cartoon character.
Nevertheless, people’s opposition to the long-term ruling by Xi is unlikely to die down. A Chinese online user cried out, “It took 100 years to overthrow imperialism, 40 years to open up and reform the country. We cannot go back to the old days.” Tiananmen protest student leader Wang Dan said in his statement, “It has been revealed that Xi Jinping has had the ambition of becoming an emperor,” and expressed concern that Xi’s ambition will bring about disaster to the Chinese people. Yuan Shikai was notorious for his arrogance and tyranny in the late Joseon Dynasty. It is worrisome that if his specter is revived in the 21st century with Xi Jinping’s ascension to the throne, it might bring disaster to the Korean people once again.